Fields of Arle Review
Stats at a glance
Arle is a peaceful town in Northeastern Germany, similar in spirit to the Dutch neighbors. In this game of engine building, worker placement, and strategy, players will work their fields, raise livestock and develop their farmstead.
But don’t let the theme trick you — Fields of Arle is a very deep game, with a lot of options and strategies to take. Considering that Uwe Rosenberg, one of the best-known names in the industry stands behind this title, its positive reception and popularity shouldn’t come as a surprise!
Brief Overview of Fields of Arle
It’s unusual to find a complex 2-player board game that is not from the war game genre, but Fields of Arle delivers a rather challenging experience for 1 or 2 players in form of a peaceful agricultural game. The rounds (half-years) matter, but they do not put pressure on the players to act quickly all the time.
Fields of Arle can be called a strategy worker-placement game, but no term describes an Uwe Rosenberg title better than Euro game. There are a ton of ways to score, but the game doesn’t feel like a point salad because each action you take feels rewarding.
The rare combination of difficulty, player count, and theme makes it easy to tell if Fields of Arle is something you’d enjoy or not. If you’re still unsure, then continue reading as we dive deeper into the intricate mechanics of the game!
Unboxing Fields of Arle
The box includes the following components:
- 1 Large Game Board
- 1 Supply Board
- 2 Travel & Barn Storage Boards
- 2 Home Boards
- 18 Travel Destination Tiles
- 48 Building Material Tiles
- 70 Clothing Tiles
- 3 Replacement (x5) Tiles
- 61 Various Tiles
- 10 Dikes
- 31 Building Tiles
- 8 Worker Tokens
- 20 Tool Indicator Tokens
- 40 Peat Cubes
- 60 Livestock Meeples
- 12 Goods Indicators
- 1 Half Year Marker
- 1 Starting Player Marker
- 1 Scoring Pad
- 1 Rulebook
- 1 Sticker Sheet
- 2 Overview Sheets
From the long list of components, you can already tell that Fields of Arle is no casual two-player game. The game takes as much space on the table as most standard 4-player games! There’s certainly a lot to go through, so let’s start with the largest pieces — the boards.
The game board is massive and packed with content, but it doesn’t feel difficult to navigate because the actions are grouped and color-coded. Player boards are just big rectangles of green, which is not a bad thing as it doesn’t distract from the tiles that will later be placed on top.
It’s the same story with the supply board, but the travel & barn board emphasizes something I really like about the components — the different shapes and sizes of the tiles.
The barn part features slots where you’d place the different types of carts, carriages, and boats, that have storage spaces. The resource tiles can be placed inside them, but they come in various sizes and may not always fit.
The wooden tokens and pieces are always welcome, and the shapes of animals are very nicely done. The game also includes a sheet of stickers that can be applied to goods, workers, and cows. Some have criticized the adhesion of the stickers, but frankly, I couldn’t say as I didn’t use them — I like the pieces as they are.
Fields of Arle is a great example of a game that does a lot of small things well. None of the components stick out on their own, but when you look at all of them together, they form an excellent package.
How to Play Fields of Arle
Fields of Arle is a mechanic-heavy game, so to truly grasp all the rules I strongly advise reading the rulebook, preferably more than once.
I’m going to give you a brief summary of how the game is played, but as a disclaimer: this guide is going to come nowhere near covering all of the rules and mechanics of the game.
The first thing you’ll need to do is arrange the game boards on the table. The most compact layout has the two players facing each other, with the big game board on the left, and the storage board separating the player boards on the right.
During the setup, you’ll determine the first player, arrange the workers on the trackers of the first summer half-year, take the starting resources and arrange all the tiles in their places on the game and storage boards.
The player home boards are also worth mentioning at this point. There are 21 field spaces on the board but at the start of the game, only a few will be available to the player. The bottom rows are restricted by the moor tiles while expanding to the top is restricted by dikes.
Fields, Buildings, and Vehicles
One of your main goals is to expand your farmstead and use up as much of the land as possible. On it, you’ll build stalls, forests, fields, and various buildings that will grant resources throughout the game, and victory points at the end.
Moors can be dehydrated and then cultivated into usable land, while dikes can be pushed forward to claim more of the tidal flat area. The infrastructure can also be upgraded to provide more benefits.
On the left side of the home board is a travel experience track that increases as you provide more towns and villages with your products. The right side features a goods indicator track that is used for food, grain, and other resources.
Vehicles offer a way to upgrade basic materials into a more refined version (presumably by taking them to a craftsman) and they also facilitate trade. Vehicles are bought from the supply board and placed into the barn, and from that point on, they can be used during every round as a free action.
The Game Flow
Fields of Arle is played over the course of 9 rounds, called half-years. Each half-year starts with a month of preparations followed by four months of working and ends with inventorying. These are the three distinct phases of the round.
Players arrange four workers each on the slots of the subsequent months. The person with the first player token places their workers on top so they can access them first.
During the work phase, players place their workers in order of play on the 15 available action spaces of that half-year. Once a worker is placed down, the effect of the action is immediate and that space is occupied for the rest of the half-year.
One player can choose to take an action of the opposite half-year, but doing so grants the other player the first player token for the next round.
While normal actions have a certain cost and require you to place a worker on a free slot, using the vehicles can be done at any point. Rearranging animals on the home board is also a free action, as is the exchange from the peat boat.
Once all of the workers have been used and all free actions are taken, it’s time to calculate the earnings. Players gain refined materials from their vehicles, produce from animals, harvest goods, and other resources.
The end of the summer half-year grants more than the end of winter, but you’ll still gain resources from vehicles as well as baby animals and wool from sheep.
Game End & Scoring
The half-years start with summer and alternate until the 5th and final summer. With the last worker placed on the board and all of the free actions taken, the game comes to an end.
Just about everything you do during the game will result in victory points at the end. The gathered materials, vehicles, goods, animals travel experience, and a few others grant victory points, while unattended moors and dikes lead to negative points. Naturally, the player with the most points is declared the winner.
Your First Game of Fields of Arle
With a game like Fields of Arle, half the fun comes from figuring out ways to maximize points. Still, I’ll provide some basic advice so you don’t feel overwhelmed during your first game.
The most important thing is to not get distracted by all the actions you can take. What matters is the base resources: wood, clay, and peat. Along with these resources, focus on expanding your fields by cultivating moors and moving the dikes.
Figuring out what to do in the first round is always the hardest, so start by gathering wood, improving your wood production, or planting a forest. The game will quickly open up to you in ways that will feel logical — make a building, get a cart and a boat, get a breeding pair of animals, and expand your fields throughout.
Pros & Cons
- Strong Presence of Theme
- Recognizable Uwe Experience
I’ve played a lot of Euro games and while most have a decent “coat of theme” only a few keep the theme relevant past the first couple of games — after that, it’s all about crunching the numbers.
Fields of Arle have felt differently in this regard. You’re not thinking of coins, yellow and red cubes, but horses, sheep, carts, and which field tile is best. The half-year round system is one of the best implementations I’ve seen so from the thematic and gameplay perspective.
Those familiar with Uwe’s work will instantly recognize his way of gameplay design, but at the same time, Fields of Arle is different enough from his other titles to stand out on its own.
- Not the Easiest Game to Learn
- Restricted Player Count
Because of the theme and player count, some players may underestimate Fields of Arle. Despite the player count, this is a full-fledged Euro game that will require some effort to learn properly.
What is both a pro and a con is the aforementioned player count. Fields of Arle can be played only as a solo or a two-player game, which is quite restricting. However, the game has been tailored to this player count, so unlike some 4-5 player games, a solo or two-player experience is not diluted.
Fields of Arle Review (TL;DR)
Fans of the classic Euro games will love the experience Fields of Arle has to offer. There are several Uwe Rosenberg games you can enjoy, but none offer the solo and two-player experience quite like Fields of Arle.
The theme may not seem that interesting, but once you get into the gameplay you’ll realize just how engaging and well implement it really is. Fields of Arle has a recommendation from me and as long as you’re willing to put some energy and time into learning the mechanics, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it!
While I can certainly appreciate Uwe Rosenberg’s work, I’m not a diehard fan. I’ve enjoyed some of his other games, but none have been the staple of my collection and something I’d play regularly.
So coming into Fields of Arle, I had no prior hype or high expectations from the game, apart from knowing I’d play it by myself. I rarely do so, but I figured I’d give it a shot rather than rope someone into playing with me.
My goal now is to get my wife to like Fields of Arle so we can make it our go-to two-player game. We both love playing Euro games but tend not to play alone so as to not get ahead of the friends we play with.
The few solo sessions I’ve played have been very enjoyable, and I can’t wait to play more. The gameplay is as captivating as the theme — there’s something inherently relaxing to a sandbox game about tending to a farm.
As I’ve said in the previous section, Fields of Arle is an easy recommendation. It’s quite a hit-or-miss game — you can read the basic facts about the game and base your decision on it. Provided you’re fine with the session length, player count, and difficulty, Fields of Arle you’re almost guaranteed to have a great experience with this game!
We hope you enjoyed our Fields of Arle review! Have you tried this beautiful Euro game before? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.